I read a short description/history of nahuals aloud for my husband and I. Interesting stuff. According to the site I read, "The aztec voice for Nahual is "Nahualli" that means "lo que es mi vestidura o piel" (Something that is my cloth or skin). And it refers to the abilty of the Nahual to morph himself into a werecreature (wolf, jaguar, lynx, bull, eagle, coyote, ...) That voice also refers nigromancy, secret and malice. " The thing that caught our attention about this is the meaning of nahualli, namely "something that is my cloth or skin". Navajo lore has it that skinwalkers replace their skin with the skin of the animal they will become. It's an interesting similiarity.
I wonder if the Nahual were the precursors to the Navajo skinwalker. The Aztecs' range did reach up into Arizona so it's highly possible. Perhaps during the persecutions of Nahual during colonial times forced them to travel further north, bringing the shapeshifting to the Navajo. However, there is no Navajo lore that says that the yenaldglooshi came from the south. One curious belief is that whites brought the skinwalkers. The Nahual were hunted by the Spaniards.
The main difference between the nahual and the skinwalker is what they did. Nahual were revered, religious in nature and served the people. The skinwalker, according to Navajo lore, was given its powers to cause trouble, complete with cannibalism and murder. So, both are shapeshifters, both have reference to skins but they are different in purpose. Not to mention the nahual have amber glowing eyes and skinwalkers' eyes glow red. Who knows, maybe skinwalkers are vengeful nahuals. lol.
Very interesting stuff. Hadn't heard of the Nahual before. I'll have to see if I can find out more about them.